E-rickshaws' free run to end, new policy drafted

The capital’s over 30,000 e-rickshaws – the three-wheeled, battery driven avatar of the manually-pulled cycle-rickshaw – are set to be tamed by the Delhi government which has given final touches to a policy to regulate these public transport vehicles.

Most of these vehicles, initially brought from China and assembled here, are being driven by people who have minimal road sense, are without driving licences and have, perhaps, never been tested for their eyesight.

The e-rickshaw policy, which has got the approval of Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, aims to give some sort of legitimacy to these slow moving vehicles -  costing  between Rs 80,000 to Rs 1.25 lakh each - that have sprung up in the city in the last one year or so.
A senior transport department official said, “Now, each of these vehicles will have to be registered."

“The drivers will have to wear uniforms and public transport vehicle badges and get commercial driving licence. The e-rickshaws’ routes would also be regulated, with curbs on coming on to busy roads,” said the official.

 “At present, we do not even know how many e-rickshaws exist in Delhi,” admitted a transport official.

He said the absence of an elected government in Delhi has proved to be a blessing for transport and traffic police authorities which, despite several suggestions earlier, failed to regulate the e-rickshaw drivers who are believed to constitute a significant vote bank.
The transport department is likely to soon notify the new policy on e-rickshaws and after that the traffic police would also be able to penalise drivers of these vehicles’ in case of violation of traffic rules like jumping red light, said an official.

In a way, the mushrooming of eco-friendly e-rickshaws was linked to the need for a cheap and reasonably quick mode of transport which could move around in congested areas. In many colonies, the e-rickshaws are a boon for Metro users who face problems in reaching homes within 1-3 km distance fromMetro stations. Most passengers are charged Rs 10 per trip.

The vehicles also offer employment to migrants who can not afford an auto-rickshaw, each of which costs around Rs 2 lakh apart from an alleged bribe of Rs 50,000 needed to procure a permit, said a member of an NGO which works for autorickshaw drivers.
But there is also a dark side to e-rickshaws.

“There have been incidents of road accidents involving e-rickshaws due to untrained drivers and over loading of passengers,” said a traffic police official.

The e-rickshaws which run up to 25 km an hour speed, using a 250 wattmotor, will now be brought under the Motor Vehicles Act as these do not qualify for any concession under the garb of being non-motorised vehicles, said an official.

“We conducted tests on 53 vehicles in the past four months and found that the e-rickshaws were running at more than 25 km an hour,” he said.

“Under the new policy, the manufacturers and sellers of e-rickshaws will have to get registered. The manufacturers will have to take approval for manufacturing the type of vehicle from an authorised agency and the sellers will have to take a trade licence from the transport department,” said an official.

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